“Analytics” of the current situation in the immigration sector in Canada due to the crisis in Europe and Ukraine from a Ukrainian refugee based on the speech at ACE Conference, UBC, Vancouver 19-22 July 2022

Hi! My name is Nick and I came here with Max as a part of the British Columbia Co-op Association. I would like to start with some information about us as we are Ukrainian newcomers and came to Canada recently.

I would like to share our personal experience and provide you with the information about general situation connected to the Ukrainian immigration process in Canada.

Max has always been into art. He drew different creatures when he was a child, he was into skin customization of different programs to make them more pretty. Then he started drawing digitally and learnt more about Photoshop. Then he started work as a Photoshop specialist and has written a lot of Photoshop tutorials.

In 2015 Max started his graphic design business in Mariupol, Ukraine. At first, he worked with Post-Soviet Countries like Russia, Ukraine, Belarus or Belorussia and Kazakhstan. Then he turned his business to West Countries and started getting clients from the United Kingdom, Italy, the USA and Canada.

That’s when I joined his business as he needed help with communications. So, he could concentrate on art and I worked with clients directly. My field of responsibility has been very broad: providing information about our services and the steps how to get the projects done, maintaining business relationships with customers, writing follow-up calls and emails and answering customers’ questions.

Sometimes the projects are big and two people aren’t enough for them. So, we started building our team. Now besides us, we have 8 more people with whom we are able to get the projects done. They are graphic designers, web developers, one photographer and one marketing specialist.

On the morning of February, 24th this year our life was changed. We couldn’t leave the city immediately as the transport system was already destroyed and the city was blocked. When we were able to leave Mariupol, one-third of Mariupol was already under Russian control. We had to leave the city while the bombing. There are about 22-25 thousand deaths only in Mariupol. It’s difficult to calculate all the people while the war is in the progress.

After that, we had a long journey to Canada. It took us 1.5 months to get here. On our way, we have been to many cities in a few countries. We have been to Crimea, Russia, Georgia and Germany.

There are a lot of problems Ukrainians facing with now coming to Canada. The first one is the status. Officially we are not refugees. We are the workers coming to Canada via emergency travel. So, almost all the responsibility for these people is on communities and different organizations. Such as charity organizations, church organizations and businesses.

Ukrainians are well-educated. It’s one of the most educated European countries. They are hard-working. There are many towns in Canada which have been developed by Ukrainians from previous immigration waves.

Ukrainian Canadians are the third-largest Ukrainian population behind Ukraine itself and Russia in the world.

There are many other problems Ukrainian newcomers have here. One of them is a language barrier as not many Ukrainians know English or French. The next one is housing. There is a lack of accommodation systems in Canada. The houses are extremely expensive and it’s really challenging to find a place to stay. The rent prices are high as well. Transportation system. In towns, there is a shortage of bus routes. It’s difficult to get from one place to another. The next problem is paperwork. It’s difficult to find an immigration specialist who can provide updated information about the programs. Sometimes people come to Canada and don’t know about the immigration process. So, they lose some criteria and they have to leave eventually.

There are some mental issues. Some Ukrainians who are coming to Canada need rest, need space for privacy and a relaxation period when they can breathe out and stay home to feel a new environment and get used a bit to new surroundings. So, they can’t perform 100% at work just after landing in Canada.

In the next few months, the war in Ukraine is expected to be very active before the fall rains and winter snows come to Ukraine. Also, there’s a certain limit on military reserves from both sides of the conflict, the Russian one and the weapon limit given by Western Countries under military aid to Ukraine. After that the next difficult period is winter. As the infrastructure is destroyed in many regions of Ukraine and there is no other choice than to move to other places.

The following winter is going to be unpredictable in Europe as well due to the increased risks of natural gas emergency and the record inflation in the EU.

From what we can see the situation in Ukraine is getting worse and worse. More people will immigrate and more people will come to Canada. So, this is a good time for co-ops and other businesses to help Ukrainians and get experienced employees in agriculture, farming, engineering, digital developers, science specialists, seamen, steel production, managers and people who get used to working hard under pressure and solve any kinds of challenging tasks.

The co-op sector will face all of these problems in the nearest future if it hasn’t happened yet. And I think that the co-op sector is able to be a part of the force that can make a big difference, take the advantage of this new environment and solve these problems which are the consequences of the situation in Ukraine. As the co-op sector has resources, it has connections and network with many businesses, communities and the Canadian government.

That’s why we are here bringing our experience of being new immigrants and I believe that we are the first ones in this new wave of immigration in Canada.

More than 60 thousand people have already come to Canada. More than 260,000 visa applications have been approved and almost 150,000 Ukrainians are still waiting for their visas.

Co-ops have to be aware of what is going on in the immigration sector, what consequences it will cause, what possibilities it opens and what new challenges it creates as well.

You are more than welcome to come up to us, share contact details and share our story with other co-ops and I hope that we all together can make big difference using co-op associations.

When we came to Canada, we thought that all our problems had gone. But now we are facing others as we have to start our business again.

We have already re-registered our business and started looking for opportunities to develop it, get clients and expand the network.

We have our team from Ukraine and we have already met other graphic designers here. And it seems like we are able to create something bigger working altogether.

So, we would like to say a big thank you to the BC Co-op Association, WorkBC in Vernon, In our Hands program and the Association of Co-op Educators. They are Carly Gare, Iva Jankovic, Michelle Tsutsumi, Michael Norris and many more people who are taking part in organizing this event and the programs (one of them is In our Hands program) which start in the fall helping people start the cooperatives, providing the information, education and assistance to open co-ops in communities.

Big thank you to all the sponsors as well.

We would like to say a big thank you to the people who we already met here in Canada. They are just wonderful! So helpful and caring! That is what Ukrainians need the most coming here.